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Motor Scooter Driver Injured in Meriden Crash


One person was rushed to the hospital after a motor scooter and a four-door Honda sedan crashed on on East Main Street in Meriden on Wednesday.

The crash happened in front of 300 East Main Street, near Uptown Pizza and LifeStar was called, but was then canceled.

An ambulance transported the driver of the motor scooter driver to an area hospital. Police have not released the name of the person who was injured.

At least two, but possibly three, people were in the car, but no information was immediately available on whether any of them were injured.

Crews at the scene saw a blue motor scooter on its side and a tan four-door sedan with front-end damage and a smashed windshield.

Witnesses told NBC Connecticut that the motor scooter driver was leaving a soup kitchen in the area when the crash happened.

At least eight law enforcement vehicles responded, as well as two ambulances.

The road was closed in both directions at the Center Street intersection, but has reopened.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Teen Held Hostage, Forced Into Sex Trafficking: Cops


Police have arrested a Waterbury man accused of holding a 17-year-old Bridgeport girl against her will and forcing her into sex trafficking.

Officers arrested Brandon Williams, 34, after responding to the report of an incident at the Sunnyside Inn on Lake Street in Bridgeport early Wednesday morning.

Police said the 17-year-old victim told investigators Williams was holding her against her will and forced her to engage in sex trafficking.

The teen was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and was listed in stable condition, according to police. She's recovering in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.

Williams was arrested and charged with violating his probation. Bond was set at $50,000, and Bridgeport public safety said Williams will face additional charges in connection with the case.

It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

1 of 2 National Zoo Newborn Pandas Dies


One of Mei Xiang's tiny newborn panda cubs died Wednesday, four days after its birth at the National Zoo.

The smaller of the twin giant panda cubs died shortly after 2 p.m.

Zoo officials said the larger cub appears to be strong and robust. The surviving cub is behaving normally and is with mother Mei Xiang.

The cubs were born within hours of each other Saturday night. Zookeepers were attempting to swap them out so both got time and attention from Mei Xiang, as is protocol with panda births. 

Zoo officials said the panda team had switched the cubs within the past 24 hours. The smaller cub was with Mei Xiang from about 2 p.m. Tuesday through Wednesday morning.

However, when the team switched the cubs Wednesday morning, the smaller cub seemed weaker, was displaying possible respiratory problems, and hadn't gained weight. Zoo vets gave the cub antibiotics, respiratory support, formula and fluids, to no avail.

The mortality rate for panda cubs in their first year in human care is about 26 percent for male cubs and 20 percent for female cubs, the zoo said in a release. The sexes of the newborns are still unknown.

A zoo official said Mei Xiang wasn't showing preference to one cub over another and was reluctant to give up whichever cub was with her any time keepers attempted a swap. When her second cub was born around 10 p.m. Saturday, she had tried to figure out how to hold both, but was unable to.

"The collective scientific knowledge about giant panda mothers is that they are best able to care for one cub at a time," the zoo said in a release. Giant pandas have twins about 50 percent of the time.

Zoo vets had been caring for each cub during swaps, feeding them a mixture of baby formula, puppy formula and water, and keeping them warm in an incubator. 

A day before the smaller cub's death, the zoo said that its behaviors were "good," but that it was still a high-risk time, and that the cub's weight was fluctuating. The panda team was bottle- and tube-feeding the cub in an attempt to provide enough fluids and nutrients.

The cub had shown some signs of regurgitation, and vets were administering antibiotics as a precaution, the zoo said Tuesday.

Zoo pathologists will perform a necropsy on the cub. A final report will be available in the coming weeks.

At the time of death, the cub weighed 79.8 grams, or about 2.8 ounces. A few hours after birth, the cub had weighed just over 86 grams, or about three ounces.

The larger cub, believed to be the second born, weighed in at 138 grams (4.86 ounces) shortly after birth. At its most recent weigh-in, the surviving cub weighed 137.7 grams (4.85 ounces), the zoo said Wednesday.

The panda team is continuing to closely monitor Mei Xiang and the surviving cub around the clock, the zoo said. The risks to the surviving cub remain high.

Vets don't know yet who fathered the twin cubs. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in late April with semen from the zoo's male giant panda, Tian Tian, as well as from Hui Hui, a giant panda living in China. It's possible the cubs had different fathers.

Tian Tian has fathered all four of Mei Xiang's previous cubs, two of whom survived: Tai Shan, born in 2005, and 2-year-old Bao Bao, who still lives at the National Zoo.

Photo Credit: Shellie Pick, Smithsonian's National Zoo
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9/11 Families Want Victims' Remains Moved After Leak Report


Families of victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks are calling for the remains housed under the World Trade Center to be moved amid reports of possible leaks in a slurry wall that keeps the waters of the Hudson River from flowing into the complex.

The families said in a statement they want the remains to be moved from a below-ground area at the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum to an above-ground tomb after DNAinfo reported that an underground leak had been discovered in the massive 4-foot-thick wall.

"It is very upsetting for families to think that their loved ones' remains would be the first items lost in the basement of the museum if water was to gush into the site,” the families said in the statement. “These remain fragments are so fragile that if they are damaged or lost, they are gone forever."

DNAinfo reported that engineers began investigating the integrity of the wall after Port Authority workers began to hear the sound of rushing water in the lower concourses of the complex in the last two weeks. 

The Port Authority, however, told NBC 4 New York on Wednesday that it routinely inspects the slurry wall, and that no leaks were found in an examination a few days ago.

A spokesman for the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum also said there was no evidence of a leak in the slurry wall.

The slurry wall was built around the World Trade Center site in the 1960s, before the original office complex was constructed. It is credited with holding back water from seeping into ground zero after the towers fell.

A portion of the retaining wall can be seen in the Sept. 11 Museum.

Photo Credit: National September 11 Memorial Museum/Jin Lee

Radio Station Helps Raise $10K for Boy With Cancer


A popular Connecticut radio station renamed itself after a 9-year-old boy battling brain cancer for a day and raised quite a bit of money for the boy and his family.

Radio 104.1 WMRQ changed its name to Anthony FM for one day on Tuesday in honor of Anthony Longley, 9, of North Haven, and many people stopped by to say hi and make donations that will make a difference for the family and send them to Disney.

"From the bottom of my heart, and from everyone here at Radio 104.1, THANK YOU. YOU helped us raise $10,000 for Anthony and the Longley family. ANTHONY FM could not have happened without YOU!," a post the radio station shared with NBC Connecticut says.

Anthony has been fighting anaplastic ependymoma, a type of brain cancer, for the past six years, according to a GoFundMe page raising money for his family. He has had five major brain surgeries since 2009 on top of other medical procedures.

DJ David Fisch, host of Fish in the Morning, came up with the idea to rename the locally owned radio station after he received a call from Anthony's mom. 

"I'm a dad myself and I couldn't imagine going through this with one of my children or one of my sons," Fish said. "When his mom reached out to me for help, I could only say yes."

Anthony's parents have stayed by their son's side during his treatment, first at Yale-New Haven Hospital and now at Boston Children's Hospital, which has required them to take a lot of time away from work,

A GoFundMe page set up to help them says they have "exhausted all funds" and asks people to help them help Anthony fight his brain cancer and to "find a cure for this demon."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hospice Therapy Dog Comforts Dying Woman in Viral Video


A registered nurse posted a video of her therapy dog, JJ, caring for a hospice patient in her last mo, in a display of affection that has been shared more than 240,000 times on Facebook. 

"What we do is absolutely touching, but the depth of the response to the video is amazing, as well as heart-warming," Tracy Calhoun, a nurse and JJ's handler, told NBC affiliate King5.

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JJ's Facebook page, where status updates are written from the dog's perspective, said the woman in the now viral video has "very few people visit her." The woman died a day after the video was filmed, Calhoun said.

"She cannot see and often does not wake up, but she did like having her hand on my fur," JJ explained. "She was very calm during my visit. We were listening to Yeats, by the way. I was very insistent to have her touch me, more so than usual. We fell asleep later with her hand splayed on my head, both of us snoring (no proof of that!) I sure can be silly at times, but I also know when to be quiet and present. Her caregivers were very appreciative when they saw this video."

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Since the video has been posted, JJ's following on Facebook spiked from 1,800 supporters to 7,000 in 48 hours, according to King5. As of Wednesday afternoon, the page had more than 54,000 "likes."

JJ has been a certified therapy dog since she was 1 year old, the dog's Facebook page says. The golden retriever is part of Project Canine and is also a HOME Animal Assisted Crisis Response K9. 

Photo Credit: Facebook/JJ Hospice Therapy Dog
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Tributes to Slain Virginia Journalists: 'Special People'


Tributes on-air and online are pouring in for the two Virginia journalists who were shot and killed during a live broadcast.

"They were special people," WBDJ7 anchor Kimberly McBroom, said on air. "They would brighten up the room every morning." 

President Barack Obama said "it breaks my heart every time" he reads or hears about these kinds of incidents.

"What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism," he said.

Alison Parker, who just turned 24, an on-air reporter for the Virginia-based news station, and Adam Ward, 27, a photographer for over four years with the team, were gunned down during a live interview just before 7 a.m. on Wednesday at a shopping center in Moneta, Virginia.

Both Parker and Ward were involved in romantic relationships with other people at WDBJ7, according to Mike Morgan, who works in the station's promotions department, NBC News reported. Both journalists were from around the area.

"We didn't share this publicly, but Alison Parker and I were very much in love," evening news anchor, Chris Hurst, posted on Facebook and Twitter. "We just moved in together. I am numb." 

According to Hurst's Facebook posts, he and Parker had started dating only nine months ago and planned on getting married. Hurst also posted several photos of the couple together.

Ward was engaged to the show's morning producer Melissa Ott, who witnessed the horrific scene. 

Melissa Gaona, an anchor with the news team, remembered Ward as being a "godly man."

"We used to pray sometimes in our live truck before the show," Gaona wrote in a Facebook caption accompanying a picture of her and Ward. 

In memory of Alison Parker, WDBJ7 posted a video "Fun Facts about Mornin' reporter Alison Parker."

Parker enjoyed whitewater kayaking, playing with her parents' dog Jack and attending community theater events, according to her bio on WBDJ's website. 

Photo Credit: NBC News
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Parking Problems Persist on CTfastrak


Parking is hard to come by at the Fenn Road CTfastrak station in Newington.

The station's 50 parking spaces are all full, leading commuters to parking along the curb, which almost reaches Fenn Road.

"That's a good problem to have," Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a visit to discuss CTFastrak and transit-oriented development.

He said there are plans in the works to expand parking options at multiple stations, which shows the interest levels for the busway is higher than most people thought, according to Malloy.

Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said Wednesday that CTfastrak has more than 14,000 riders every day, up from the initial rider estimates of 11,000 per day.

Malloy toured a stretch of New Britain with plans for redevelopment directly linked to the busway. An apartment building in the works will have 52 units and is a short walk from the New Britain Fastrak terminal.

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, a Republican who has split with many in her own party because of her support for the busway, said the redevelopment wouldn't be possible without it.

"This is not political at all. This is people’s livelihoods. This is how folks in my city get around. This is how folks in cities and urban areas all across Connecticut get around," Stewart said.

2 Construction Workers Hurt in Westport Scaffold Collapse


Two construction workers were hurt when scaffolding collapsed at the Bedford Square development in Westport on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire officials said the injured workers were getting ready to cut steel on the second floor of the building at 52 Post Road East, which is undergoing construction and renovation, when the scaffold tipped over.

One worker was standing on the scaffold and the other was struck by the scaffold as it came down, according to the fire department. Both suffered leg injuries that are not life threatening.

Westport police and medical personnel responded to care for the injured construction workers while firefighters used ropes and rigs to rescue them.

Both injured construction workers were taken to Norwalk Hospital for treatment.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident and the two construction companies working on the project sent out safety officers, according to the fire department.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Walmart Pulling Semi-Automatic Rifles From Stores


On Wednesday, Walmart announced it is removing semi-automatic rifles and similar sports firearms from its stores because of poor sales—not because of the killing of two Virginia journalists on live TV.

The decision had been in the works for months and Walmart notified suppliers early this year that the company would be moving away from so-called modern sports rifles, Kory Lundberg, a spokesman told NBC News. 

Customers are simply no longer "excited" about the products, Lundberg said. Walmart is refocusing its firearms sales on "people who shoot clays and stuff." The timing was driven by Walmart's transition for summer merchandise to fall merchandise, he said, not by the public debate over guns. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Blumenthal Lone CT Holdout on Iran Nuclear Deal


Sen. Richard Blumenthal is the only member of Connecticut's Congressional Delegation who has not yet endorsed the Obama Administration's nuclear deal with Iran.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty announced her support for the deal yesterday in a statement saying that the deal was "imperfect" but added she felt its the best way to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

"I will be doing what I think to be right thing based on conscience and conviction, not on poll numbers and not on the last person who spoke to me," Blumenthal said after he met with a group of people who rallied at his office in support of the deal.

The group displayed signs warning of a possible war with Iran if the deal isn't approved by Congress.

"I think it’s a good deal for the world," said Henry Lowendorf, a New Haven resident who delivered several hundred signatures to Blumenthal in support of the nuclear agreement.

"It asks Iran not to develop nuclear weapons which it’s not doing now, in return for ending sanctions. Iran wins it’s free of sanctions and we win because we’re assured there’s no nuclear weapons," Lowendorf said.

The Iran nuclear deal would lift economic sanctions on the country that has crippled its economy. It would also place limits and caps on the amount Enriched Uranium that the country could produce, as well as mandate changes to existing nuclear facilities to ensure they could not be used to produce materials for weapons.

Sen. Blumenthal says those are all factors he has to consider before making any decision.

"I’ve been listening to opponents, nuclear physicists, diplomatic experts. I’m using this time to listen to them and the people of Connecticut and I’ve learned and immense amount."

He says the only deadline he sees is when the vote is actually taken.

"I’ve been listening to opponents, nuclear physicists, diplomatic experts. I’m using this time to listen to them and the people of Connecticut and I’ve learned and immense amount."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ammunition Explodes During Windham House Fire


Two adults and two children were forced from a home in Windham when fire broke out Wednesday afternoon, causing ammunition to go off inside the house, according to officials at the scene.

The Windham fire marshal said crews arrived around 2 p.m. Wednesday to find smoke coming from the back porch at 45 Babcock Hill Road. Fire caused ammunition to explode inside the home.

No one was injured.

The second floor of the home sustained smoke and fire damage, and water used to fight the fire caused damage to the first floor, according to officials at the scene.

Fire crews from South Windham, Windham Center, North Windham, Yantic, Franklin, Lebanon and Baltic responded, along with volunteers from the American Red Cross.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Submitted

Before TV Crew Shot, Alarming Signs From Suspect


Employees at a Virginia TV station were warned two years ago about the man suspected in the murders of a television reporter and photographer during a live broadcast early Wednesday.

According to employment files from WDBJ — the CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Channel 7 — workers were told to "call 911 immediately" if they saw ex-reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II on company property, NBC News Investigations reports.

Flanagan is the suspect in the slayings of reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward, who were gunned down while conducting an interview around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday.

The three had worked together at the TV station, where Flanagan went by the on-air name Bryce Williams. But when Flanagan was fired in February 2013, a 911 call summoned police to remove him from the premises, NBC News Investigations has learned. 

According to WDBJ documents, Flanagan said, "You better call police because I'm going to make a big stink. This is not right." According to station files, he had to be physically lifted by his chair by management and threw a ball cap at a station employee.

The 2013 incident was recorded by Adam Ward, one of the victims.

Off-duty police officers stood guard at WDBJ from 6 a.m. to midnight the Saturday and Sunday after Flanagan's termination.

Hours after Wednesday morning's deadly shootings, Flanagan, 41, shot himself along a Virginia interstate. He was airlifted to a hospital in Fairfax County, where he died.

Parker and Ward were remembered Wednesday night at a vigil in Franklin County, where dozens of people lit candles as the sun set.

A man claiming to be Flanagan faxed a lengthy document to ABC News shortly before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, sharing what the news network described as a long list of grievances. The writer said he experienced "racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work," ABC said.

NBC has not independently seen or verified this information.

In the 23-page document, the man claiming to be Flanagan said the June mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, pushed him over the edge, ABC News reported. He said he placed a deposit for a gun two days after the Charleston shooting.

"The church shooting was the tipping point... but my anger has been building steadily... I've been a human powder keg for a while... just waiting to go BOOM!!!!" the document said in part, according to ABC News.

The writer also expresses admiration for those who orchestrated mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and at Columbine High School in 1999, ABC News reported.

Wednesday's shooting played out on live television as Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, conducted an interview shortly before 6:45 a.m. at Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping mall located just off Smith Mountain Lake, a large vacation destination in Moneta, Virginia, about 25 miles southeast of Roanoke.

Police said Flanagan walked up to Parker and Ward as they interviewed Vicki Gardner, the head of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce. The footage shows Parker listening to Gardner talk about local tourism when someone opens fire outside the frame.

Parker screams and moves out of the view of the camera, amid the sound of at least eight gunshots.

After the camera drops to the ground, it captures an image of the gunman, dressed in black, pointing the gun toward the cameraman. The video then cuts back to the concerned and confused anchor in the studio.

Parker and Ward were fatally shot; Gardner was wounded and underwent emergency surgery, according to a Roanoke hospital. She is in stable condition.

Police said the shooter drove away from the scene. Investigators identified Flanagan as a suspect from information gathered at the scene.

Someone who appeared to be Flanagan posted several posts to social media late Wednesday morning, including a first-person video of the attack. Twitter quickly suspended the account.

Flanagan had worked at WDBJ, channel 7 in Roanoke, from March 2012 until February 2013. 

General Manager Jeff Marks said the station employed Flanagan as a reporter and that while he showed some talent in the position, he was "an unhappy man" who "quickly gathered a reputation somewhat of being difficult to work with."

"He was sort of looking out for people to say things that he could take offense to," Marks said on his station's broadcast Wednesday. "And eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he did not take that well. We had to call the police to escort him from the building."

Shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday, Flanagan's 2009 Ford Mustang was located at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton Jr. said. Flanagan switched to a Chevrolet Sonic he rented earlier this month.

Authorities tracked him along the I-81 corridor. A state trooper stationed at I-66 and I-81 to monitor traffic with a license plate reader hit on a suspect vehicle shortly before 11:30 a.m., according to Virginia State Police. She caught up to the Sonic and radioed for backup. When it arrived, the troopers attempted to stop the car in Fauquier County, about a three-hour drive from Smith Mountain Lake.

Flanagan did not stop for police, but after a mile-and-a-half he drove off the left of the highway into an embankment. Troopers found Flanagan, the lone occupant, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

Flanagan was airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He was pronounced dead at 1:26 p.m. 

Both slain crew members grew up in the area, WDBJ reported. Ward grew up in Salem and graduated from Virginia Tech, while Parker grew up in Martinsville and had a degree from James Madison University.

"This terrible crime against two fine journalists, I cannot tell you how much they were loved," Marks said. "Our hearts are broken."

Parker's father, Andy, told the Washington Post, "My grief is unbearable. Is this real? Am I going to wake up? I am crying my eyes out. I don't know if there’s anybody in this world or another father who could be more proud of their daughter."

Andy Parker said he received a text message from WDBJ saying his daughter had been involved in a shooting, and he suspected the worst after he didn't hear from her personally, the Post reported.

"Initially, we had some hope, but I knew in my heart of hearts. Alison would have called me immediately to say she was okay," Andy Parker told the Post.

"She loved her job," said her mother, Barbara Bailey Parker, to a reporter for Roanoke NBC afilliate WSLS. "She was beautiful and everyone loved her. She believed in giving back to the community. She was always involved and always had a smile on her face. I think she did wonderful things and touched so many people."

Ward was engaged to a producer at the station who was celebrating her last day at work Wednesday. He planned to get out of news and follow his fiancée to Charlotte. 

It was Parker who brought in the cake and balloons for the producer's last day.

"You can hear people behind us in the newsroom crying... it's just really hard to even comprehend," WDBJ anchor Jean Jadhon said on air. 

Anchor Chris Hurst said he was dating Parker, who he called "the most radiant woman I ever met."

"We were together almost nine months. It was the best nine months of our lives. We wanted to get married. We just celebrated her 24th birthday," he tweeted. 

Hurst said they had just moved in together.

"There are no words to express how heartbroken I am by the senseless tragedy in Moneta this morning," Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a statement. "My deepest sympathies go out to the loved ones of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, as well as the entire WDBJ family."

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he had not yet spoken to President Obama about the shooting. But he said, "This is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States."

He called for Congress to pass "some common sense things" to "have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country."

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Local Firefighter Battling ALS Challenges Jimmy Fallon


North Madison Volunteer Firefighter Amanda Bernier was diagnosed with ALS last year, just two weeks after she found out she was pregnant.

Now paralyzed by the disease that runs in her family, she’s participating in the ice bucket challenge and calling on the "Tonight Show"'s Jimmy Fallon to help her find a cure.

"I watched him every night in the hospital and even before that," Bernier said, speaking through an eye-tracking device. "It’s wonderful to go to sleep with a smile on my face."

Because she has a specific gene, Bernier is battling one of the most aggressive forms of ALS. She was able to give birth to a healthy baby girl, but Bernier’s condition has gotten worse.

"I went from running races, working full-time and being a firefighter to not being able to move and being on a ventilator in five months," Bernier said.

She and her husband had planned on going to a taping of Fallon’s show before Bernier got sick. Now they're unable to go because of her condition but hope her video will catch the comedian’s attention and help spread awareness about the serious disease.

"It may be too late for me," Bernier said. "But it’s not too late to find a cure for my daughter or future ALS patients."

Watch Bernier's ice bucket challenge video here.

Portrait Emerges of Gunman in Shooting of Virginia TV Reporter, Photographer


The man accused of killing a television reporter and photographer during a live broadcast in Virginia on Wednesday had worked in the news industry on and off for two decades, including at jobs in the Bay Area and Florida.

Vester Flanagan II, who used the name Bryce Williams professionally, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following the attack against his former colleagues. Within hours of the shooting, a portrait had emerged of an anchor, reporter and producer who was talented but volatile, and who thought there was too much racism against him and African-Americans.

The Northern California native was described as a disgruntled employee who WDBJ7 General Manager Jeff Marks said had been let go from the station and escorted out by police in 2013 after "many incidents of his anger coming to the fore." Still, one former neighbor from Oakland Hills recalled him being "demure" and "well-spoken."

Authorities say Flanagan opened fire on two former colleagues from Roanoke CBS station WDBJ7 at close range during an interview early Wednesday, killing reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, and sending a local Chamber of Commerce official to the hospital. 

Marks said Flanagan, who was employed at the station from March 2012 to February 2013, was an “unhappy man” who “quickly gathered a reputation somewhat of being difficult to work with.”

"He was sort of looking out for people to say things that he could take offense to," Marks said on his station's broadcast. "And eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he did not take that well."

Flanagan had also filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint about what he perceived as racism in the workplace. And in 2000, he filed a lawsuit against an NBC affiliate in Tallahassee, Fla., alleging news producers made offensive remarks about blacks. A man who claimed to be Flanagan faxed a 23-page missive to ABC, saying what triggered the "carnage" was the reaction to the racism and the Charleston church shooting.

Flanagan grew up in Oakland and graduated from Skyline High School. He interned at KPIX in San Francisco from 1993 to 1995, and then was hired in November 1996 as a casual freelance production assistant, the television station confirmed.

Former KPIX anchor Barbara Rodgers, who left the station in 2008, issued a statement about what she remembered about Flanagan while working with him in the '90s.

"When Vester worked for KPIX, he was just a young, eager kid out of journalism school and like so many other interns and new employees who came through there in my 30 years at KPIX, he just wanted to be on TV and to do a good job," she wrote.

Flanagan's family released a statement Wednesday offering their "deepest condolences to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward."

"Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with the victims' families and the WBDJ7 NEWS family," the statement said. "Words cannot express the hurt that we feel for the victims."

Flanagan graduated from San Francisco State University in 1995 with a degree in radio and TV, the university confirmed. He also worked at PG&E as a customer service representative from 2001 to 2002, the utility confirms.

He went on to work at stations in Texas and Georgia, before landing a job as a weekend anchor and reporter at NBC affiliate WTWC in Tallahassee, Florida, according to a bio published in 2012. He worked as a reporter, anchor and producer for the weekend newscast at a North Carolina station and later joined WDBJ7 in 2012, the bio said. 

His LinkedIn profile has now been taken down, as have his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Don Shafer, who hired Flanagan at WTWC in 1999, described troubling behavior during the suspected gunman's short time in Florida.  

“He was a good on-air performer, a pretty good reporter and then things started getting a little strange with him,” Shafer, now news director at XETV-TV in San Diego, said in an interview with his current station. “He threatened to punch people out and was kind of running fairly rough-shot over other people in the newsroom.”

Shafer said Flanagan was terminated from his contract for bizarre behavior in 2000. Soon after, Flanagan sued the station for racial discrimination. 

“He was pretty difficult to work with,” Shafer said.

Flanagan appeared to turn to social media with claims of racism after the shooting, airing grievances about his colleagues and referencing a discrimination claim against his latest employer. Jarring first-person video of the attack was posted to the social media accounts, which were quickly suspended.

At least one longtime acquaintance of the suspect, however, said he was shocked by the news and portrayal that emerged. Flanagan's former neighbor Virgil Barker, who lives across the street from where Flanagan grew up in the Oakland Hills, said he was "devastated" to hear about the tragedy on television. He described a young Flanagan as "demure," "personable" and "well spoken."

"It's not like he's a monster," Barker said in an interview with NBC Bay Area. "It's just one of those things where he must have snapped."

Barker said Flanagan's late mother was a school teacher and his dad, who now lives in Vallejo, California, was a salesman and former NFL player. His two sisters were all college-educated and became professionals, Barker said. "He came from a nice home, and had a nice family."

The on-air shooting marked the first time since 2007 that a journalist in the United States had been killed on the job or because of their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The last slaying was the death of Oakland Post's Chauncey Bailey that year, as was reported by the Poynter Institute.

NBC Bay Area's John Zuchelli contributed to this report.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars Recall


A company that distributes gluten-free products in more than 50 countries around the world is recalling more than 10,000 boxes of gluten-free chocolate chip granola bars, the FDA said Tuesday.

Sam Mills USA LLC, which ships to retailers across the country, including Walmart, voluntarily recalled 11,083 cases of 4.4-ounce boxes of the gluten-free treats because of risk of cross-contamination with dairy.

The packaging states it is a dairy-free product.

The granola bars affected by the recall were received in the U.S. between December 18, 2014 and July 23, 2005, the FDA said. All lots should be pulled from retail store shelves immediately, according to the agency.

The chocolate chip granola bars are the only gluten-free products affected.

Anyone who bought the granola bars should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. Customers can also call Sam Mills USA LLC 561-572-0510 for more information.

Photo Credit: Handout

Clinton Says Biden Has 'Very Difficult' Decision


Hillary Clinton pledged to run her campaign as usual, in spite of speculation about Vice President Joe Biden joining the race.

Clinton said Biden has a "very difficult decision" to make about the 2016 presidential run. She reiterated that she has "a great deal of admiration and affection" for the vice president, but wants him to make the right choice for him and his family following his son Beau Biden's death earlier this year. 

"He has to do what he has to do but I'm just going to continue with my campaign," Clinton said in Iowa Wednesday. 

Photo Credit: AP
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Kayakers Encounter Dangerous Reptile: Officials


A kayaker and his son encountered an unlikely danger while fishing in a stream in Long Island last weekend: an alligator snapping turtle.

The reptile is found primarily in a region spanning eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle, said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The presence of the turtle in local waters is likely the result of someone bringing it to Long Island and dumping it into the stream, Gross said Wednesday, adding that it is illegal to own such a reptile.

The kayakers found the turtle in a stream in Smithtown, near a location where people walk into the water to launch canoes and kayaks.

The reptile's jaws are powerful enough to bite off the toes or part of a foot of anyone who ventures too close, Gross said.

Alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America and weigh about 175 pounds when fully grown.

Hartford Police Crack Down on Synthetic Marijuana


Hartford police are cracking down on the growing problem of synthetic marijuana. They conducted an undercover sting on Tuesday and gave NBC Connecticut an exclusive look into the operation.

Undercover officers went into store after store around the city attempting to buy the dangerous and illegal drug.

"It's difficult to say ultimately how big of a problem it is because we're not always able to find out what it is someone's using, what they ingested, why are they intoxicated," said Lt. Brandon O'Brien.

With overdoses on the rise around Connecticut and the country, the Hartford police department's vice and narcotics unit is trying to curtail the problem and raise awareness about the hazardous effects of the drug.

"Not to use it, not to sell it, not to have it present in your stores, on your person, on the street. We don't want people to get sick, hurt or killed because of something like this," said O'Brien.

While officers left most stores empty handed, that was not the case at City Gas on White Street in Hartford. Police made one arrest inside the store after buying the drug.

Police say their efforts to keep synthetic marijuana out of Hartford will continue in the hopes of keeping residents safe.

"We'll go to where the activity takes us," said O'Brien.

Photo Credit: Washington Post/Getty Images

2 Outlet Malls Proposed for Hartford County


Plans are in the works for two separate outlet malls in Hartford County.

The first proposed site is in Windsor Locks, near the intersection of Route 20 and Interstate 91. The property is currently a tobacco patch. Simon Property Group, which already owns an outlet mall in Clinton and two other outlet malls in Massachusetts, plans to develop the lot into 350,000 square feet of retail space and an assortment of dining options.

Another company called The Horizon Group hopes to transform open space at Rentschler Field in East Hartford into outlets. The horizon proposal would create 381,000 of leasable space.

The site is not far from I-84 and Route 2 in East Hartford.

Currently there are no outlet malls in Hartford County, but residents who spoke with NBC Connecticut were open to the idea.

"I think a mall would do great actually," said Brian Cooper, of Windsor Locks. "It would put us on the map. I mean, we're a small town, we get a lot of visitors."

Windsor Locks resident Crystal Pleasant agreed.

"Actually, we need more things within this community to build up and that way we can bring more jobs to people around the area," she said.

Both groups still have to go through several steps before the projects are approved.

See renderings of both outlets.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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